The election results are in and the council is finely balanced.
Conservatives have 19 members
Greens have 9 members
Liberal Democrats have 8 members
Labour has three members.
There are two independents, long standing Lewes independent Ruth O’Keeffe in Lewes and former Liberal Democrat Steve Saunders in Newhaven.
This means that if all the non-conservatives vote the same way they will outvote the conservatives. There are 22 non-conservative council members.
Will the opposition stand together?
In the past some opposition groups have in claimed that other parties and councillors have sided with the conservatives on key votes. However there are a large number of new council members. All Labour members are new as are 8 out of 9 Greens and the majority of the Liberal Democrats.
The next big day is May 20th, which sees the first meeting of the full council.
Before then there will have to be detailed discussions between the various non-Conservative groups.
Before the meeting individuals or parties must make nominations for the positions of chair and vice chair of the council and leader of the council if they wish to put someone forward.
Leader of the council
This looks like being the key appointment. Before the meeting individuals or parties must make nominations for the positions of chair of the council and leader of the council. The minutes of the equivalent meeting after the last election show that the leader of the council appoints the cabinet (see below). The leader also has powers to make a lot of decisions on their own. In the 49 sites debacle the leader and the chief executive appeared to run the show without involving even the cabinet.
Chair and vice chair of the council
In normal times these roles would simply involve chairing meetings of full council, but with a hung council this is more significant. The person chairing the meeting has a casting vote in the event of a tie.
Under a system introduced nationally by new Labour and introduced locally by a Liberal-Democrat administration a large number of decisions are taken by a cabinet chosen by the leader of the council This enables a party with a majority in the cabinet to effectively control much of the council. After the last elections in 2015 the Conservatives were able to take all the places on the cabinet.
There does not have to be a cabinet. Brighton and Hove Council does not have one. It was part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto to abolish the cabinet system and others are known to be opposed. It is normally in the interests of smaller parties and independents not to have a cabinet system.
Any political group except the independents could make an alliance with the conservatives, but a group doing so would lay itself open to public criticism.
Traditionally, a lot of work of the council was done in committees. Membership of committees normally reflects the make up the council. But under the cabinet system less work is done by committees. Instead, a member of the cabinet is given responsible for a particular area. For example housing is a responsibility of the cabinet member rather than a committee.
There is a scrutiny committee which is supposed to monitor what cabinet members do, but the system is not always effective.
AND ON THE 20TH MAY…..
At the council meeting on the 20th May a Liberal Democrat Chair and a Green deputy chair were elected,
But Liberal Democrat abstentions appear to have handed control of the council to the Conservatives. A Conservative councilor is leader of the council after winning an election at the first meeting of the new council by 18 votes to 14 with 7 abstentions tonight. It is hard to tell from the web cast but it looks as though all of the Liberal Democrats present abstained. Labour and independent councilors voted for Zoe Nicholson, who stood on a platform of sharing power between various groups. The leader of the council picks the council cabinet, which takes many key decisions without consulting full council. All the new Cabinet members appear to be conservatives. More information when the Eye has it.
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